|a conversation with...|
Client Marketing Specialist
|Please describe your|
|Our customer reference program sits within the client marketing team, a branch of our marketing department. We went live with ReferenceEdge in mid-January of '21 and have about 250 users globally. We use ReferenceEdge to standardize and simplify the advocacy reference request process while also providing a means of tracking other advocacy use cases, speaker requests, and documented customer marketing assets.|
|Where did the initiative|
to start a program
originate, and why?
|I joined the team in November of 2018 and took over sales reference request as well as a client rewards program through Influitive. As a fast-growing organization the legacy process, created long before I joined, we had to record any requests just barely met our needs. I was asked to fulfill the global reference needs with this legacy process. At the end of the day and at the rate of organizational growth, it was difficult to meet the needs. |
References are a vital piece of the sales cycle, as anyone who’s in advocacy knows, and it’s important to be able to scale with the sales growth. To that end, I started researching solutions, building a business case, and slowly started getting leadership on board. It took a long time, but we finally got approval to move forward.
|Who are your internal|
|Our stakeholders include the sales team, both on the account management and new business, and our customer experience team. Our new business sales team are the primary users of the platform. They require reference calls and RFI/RFP contact listings for various opportunities. But our account management side use ReferenceEdge to request Best Practices Calls, or client to client use case discussions. They also use the platform to nominate clients for the reference program, client advisory boards, and our annual modern accounting customer awards.|
And of course, our marketing department. We have marketing team requests for clients for webinar speaking opportunities, virtual events, PR, and blog posts.
|Tell me a little about your launch. What made it so successful?||Our launch was a success. We engaged Marketing and Sales managers in each region outside of North America to enforce the nomination campaign. We ran a regional SPIFF offering the top 3-5 individuals a premium gift item of their choice for the most champion nominations received in each region. We also used multiple communication channels to remind people to participate including email, calendar invites, ReferenceEdge office hours, team meetings, newsletters, and internal 'Coffee Breaks' with senior members of BlackLine.|
|What were your top|
3 challenges before
|We had a few challenges. The biggest bottleneck that I personally experienced was not having any way to track client use cases. We didn't have a searchable database that supported the unique type of advocacy needs, and there are many, coming from our sales team. It took too much time to search the various internal systems just to narrow down clients who met the very specific or complex reference request.|
Another challenge was the time it took to complete a reference request. It was very difficult to complete a reference request within the timeframe allowed or needed by our sales team. It often took me a day to research, and four to five days to confirm an account. I wasn't too sure which accounts would necessarily do reference calls unless they had done a reference for us in the past.
Additionally, advocacy duties were segmented. We lacked visibility into what others were doing and were recording client marketing uses in multiple places. For example, I would manage the reference request, someone else on my team would handle speaking opportunities, and someone else took care of case studies. There wasn't really any way for us to see what the other person was doing and no visibility into everything that was happening across the board with clients, what they were doing for us or who was in contact with them for an advocacy request. We wasted plenty of time looking for accounts that were already in the process of doing other marketing activities for us.
Finally, we didn't have a standardized way of tracking to report and showcase everything we were doing. We couldn’t show the number of requests that were coming in over a given period of time, the type of requests, and the value that an advocate brought to BlackLine based on the deals the references were influencing. We also weren't able to showcase in one place the marketing assets—a blog post or case study—that we had in-process.
|Since launch, what has|
changed in terms of your
|I would say the benefits for us were quite immediate because it was vastly different from what we had the capacity to do in the past. The time to fulfill a reference request has dramatically improved. Our SLA pre-ReferenceEdge was about two weeks, but we've now significantly reduced that time. Two of my happiest success stories from ReferenceEdge include when we filled a three-contact RFP within 24 hours and a two-contact reference request in less than a business day. This was huge! Before ReferenceEdge, that would rarely happen, if ever – it usually took around two weeks.|
I've noticed a shift in how we're thinking about advocacy, you know? We're trying to think more proactively about building the advocacy pool. We have clients and leads to go to when we get last-minute or complex requests versus in the past when we would just be reacting to requests. Another positive change is not overusing our advocates—not necessarily only references, but speakers as well. With the ReferenceEdge nomination request form available within Salesforce, all of our account managers and account owners have advocacy a little bit more top of mind. That's been awesome.
|Since launch, how has your job changed?||Today, my role has shifted from just reactively managing sales references to managing all advocacy within a specific revenue range for our clients. So now, all case studies and speaking opportunities for that space go through me as well. You could say that our role hasn't changed much because we're still doing a lot of advocacy, but ReferenceEdge has been our single point of contact for all of that stuff, which is fantastic. I'm trying to think of some other areas where the business is impacted, and I think that that's something that we're going to be able to showcase quite well down the road. Right now, we're just trying to track and use the reporting that is available to see the impact we’ve had to date. |
I think that sometimes working in customer advocacy is kind of relentless, you know? It's a lot of effort that people in this role put in and it's not always noticed. The statistics we're able to pull in the reports from ReferenceEdge–tracking all this data and information–speak volumes for what we're doing in the background.
|What feedback have you gotten from stakeholders? Leadership?||Our sales reps like the platform because it has added transparency. They like the fact that they have some visibility into the requests. Previously, they would send us a request, and we would kind of run off into our client base and try to pull it out of the woodwork for them. Whereas now, they can see who is in our reference pool. Based on the information we have on the reference search page; they can see why we choose a specific customer for their unique opportunity. Our account managers also like that there's visibility into their reference accounts. In the case where a client is an active reference and there's a change in account ownership, the CSM has an easy little snapshot view.|
Our leadership team is loving the data points. By combing through the data we're pulling from ReferenceEdge, we can configure reports in Tableau for a nice snapshot for our leadership team. Statistics that we have never had access to before.
And, our Customer Success Leadership Team may be interested in building out specific use cases for the CSMs. So, there's some excitement from stakeholders that weren't previously included in the initial evaluation.
|What aspects of ReferenceEdge do you value the most?||The tagging capability would be at the top of the list. BlackLine has very complex solutions and we have new use cases come up all the time. Creating a new tag and tagging a client based on unique use case criteria is incredibly helpful. |
Another capability is being able to create that database we wanted and needed for so long in the first place. When we have new marketing assets, it's very easy to create a new referenceability type and attach it to an account. This allows us to know what accounts have been doing and have that historical data. I think that's a big feature that we're really taking advantage of right now and thinking hard about how we can build it out strategically for the future.
For next steps, we are working on the Influitive integration right now. We're very excited about getting that up and running. It will enable us to pull self-nominated advocates from our rewards platform as well as push out reward points for anyone who completes a reference or any other marketing asset. Plus, we can push any challenges directly to our Influitive hub—so that's in the process. I know that that's going to be a really big win for us when it comes to our use of ReferenceEdge and building out our reference pool quite smoothly.
The fact that ReferenceEdge was native to Salesforce was really important for our organization. Our legacy process was built in Salesforce, and we didn’t want any big changes for the sales team. Everything else that they use is there as well, so we wanted to make sure that we built it out correctly for our sales team.
|How do you measure program success?||The things we're focusing on in terms of measuring program success start with building our advocate pool. At launch, we ran a nomination campaign for our global sales team and received just over 180 nominations. That was a big number for us to get from the get-go. |
We are also looking at the annual contract value that our advocates are influencing. We want to be able to show how advocacy impacts bottom line.
In addition, the ability to track customer marketing assets that is critical. We track request type and how many requests we're fulfilling over a given period. We're using the platform to track all that data to show upper management and other stakeholders what we have coming up. It comes back to the effort we're putting in and how we're showcasing that internally.
I think ReferenceEdge will be extremely advantageous for our organization and is in lockstep with our advocacy strategy. Our goal is to be an indispensable program for the business units we serve. ReferenceEdge helps us do that.
|What is your experience with Point of Reference as a vendor?||I was really happy with all of the demos we went through, all the communication we had; they all seemed to have everything together, which was nice. But also, post-purchase and during implementation, they've been very attentive and responsive to our needs. I'll mention something in a meeting with my account director and forget that I said it, but then I'll get a follow-up on it next week. They're very responsive and attentive.|